Norwegian Star - Mexican Riviera: Norwegian Star Cruise Review by Garbarz

Norwegian Star 2

Overall Member Rating

Norwegian Star - Mexican Riviera

Sail Date: December 2005
Destination: Mexican Riviera
Embarkation: Los Angeles
Our extended family booked the Norwegian Star for the week following Christmas. This was our fifth family cruise, the first being on Royal Caribbeans Voyager class ships (RCCL). We came with a party of 9 and had 4 good friends join us for the week. Kids ranged in age from 12 to 18.

We realized that this was going to be slightly smaller ship but had heard that it was equally as nice and comparatively priced to RCCL. This was true. However, the experience was nowhere near as good. We disliked the freestyle cruising experience and found the staff to be less than customer oriented.

Our first experience with this lack of service came before we boarded. Approx. 3 weeks before our trip, we learned from someone that was on this ship over Thanksgiving that the itinerary had been changed due to ship problems and two of four stops had been changed. NCL never notified us even though this change had taken place a few weeks prior. Although the change in ports was disappointing More since we had booked this cruise specifically because of its itinerary, the larger concern was that the ship was now arriving back into LA two hours later than was originally planned which put our return flight at risk. With three weeks to go, there was no way to make flight changes. When we called Customer Service we were told simply that they had the right to change the itinerary; we would be given $100 to spend onboard as compensation and that we should have booked our flights through the cruise line (at considerably more money) since they would have ensured we got home. Had we not spoken to a friend, we would not have known about the change until we received the letter on board.

Our biggest disappointment was the food and Freestyle cruising. Overall, the food was mediocre at best unless you paid extra. Breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria were ok but the choices were much fewer than that on RCCL and there was little daily variation. Dinner was a true disappointment  the quality was poor. The first day, we spent 1.5 hours in line to book one of the paid restaurants since we were told to book early. We also needed to make arrangements for the free restaurants on that first day since we were told it would be difficult to accommodate our large party without reservations.

NCL boasts about Freestyle dining and the choices in restaurants times. We learned very quickly that this was misleading. Only time choices were by 6:00pm or after 8:30pm, nothing in between  even if you made your reservations that first day. Reservations meant that we all had seats but didnt guarantee we would be at the same table  just near each other. Complaints were met with resentment and long sets of tables were put together where no one could hear each other.

The two large restaurants were very noisy. It was difficult to hear anyone next to you, even when you were at a round table for 8. Freestyle cruising lacks the relationship with the waiter which is to be expected when you change restaurants but most of the wait staff was less than friendly. The menus in the two large dining rooms were primarily the same and were strange. The prime rib and salads were some of the few items that anyone would have considered good. Most food was mediocre; some was inedible. While our 4 teens and young adults usually rave about their cruise food and look forward to dinner every night, they often could not find anything of interest on the menu. Never were they offered seconds as had been the case on RCCL. Desserts were small and bland  nothing like we had experienced on RCCL.

Our party of 9 ate at Cagneys, the paid Steakhouse, and found the food delicious although it cost us $20-25/person extra. Everyone we talked to that ate at one of the 4 paid restaurants also thought that the food was excellent. I talked to NO ONE that liked the food in the free dining rooms. We went to each of the free and were unimpressed with each. The Italian was probably the best out of the restaurants but it is small since it created each evening by partitioning off half the cafeteria.

The kids were disappointed in the fact that while there was free ice cream on board, it was not self serve as found on RCCL and it was not available 24 hours/day. It was tucked away in a corner by the health center, served by a staff member, offered flavors that were not kid-friendly and were closed by 10pm.

Service throughout the ship was mediocre. Most of the staff looked tired, overworked and were not overly friendly.

Drinks and bingo were expensive. Before booking NCL, Id do a comparison of these extra charges against other ships to understand the total price difference for the cruise since these charges can add up quickly. Pictures were expensive and any coupons we received to use onboard were never valid for what we wanted.

Rooms were very noisy due to the ship movement and other cruisers on floors above/below.

There were a few experiences that were better than we experienced on our four Royal Caribbean vacations. The check-in process on NCL was less crowded and was very quick. Entertainment (e.g. shows and bands) were equal if not better than RCCL. The health club was nice, open 24 hours but was often crowded. The movie theatre, card rooms and library were also quite nice.

In summary, the ship itself was beautiful but we would not recommend this cruise. We would recommend RCCL over NCL. Less

Published 02/27/06

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